PLAYBOY: Has Google become less fun because of quarterly reports and the scrutiny of investors?
PAGE: What could be more fun that getting Scott McNealy to make a fool of himself on a stage begging us to buy some equipment from Sun? I mean Eric Schmidt agreed to clean up the jet after our last party just to be the executive on stage when Scott made a spectacle of himself.
BRIN: There are still bits of tofu in the carpet of the jet from that food fight. Eric should keep his day job.
PLAYBOY: As I noted last time, you originally wanted no telephones at Google. How is that working out?
BRIN: That was Larry. He was dating our VP Marissa Meyer at that point and didn’t see the advantages of having women "cold call" him.
PLAYBOY: Do you subscribe to any particular management theories, or do you make them up as you go?
PAGE: We watch a lot of movies like Monkey Business. I mean, when Groucho says: " Oh, I know it’s a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty." I mean its so profound. If he were still alive, we would make him our CFO. On the investor relations side, I love it when Captain Corcoran says: "Stockholders, huh? Well, you look like a couple of stowaways to me…"
BRIN: Then Groucho says: "Well, don’t forget, my fine fellow, that the stockholder of yesteryear is the stowaway of today." That is the unofficial motto in the executive cubicles in the Googleplex. You can find that motto in the notes in the PowerPoint presentation from the last analyst day.
PAGE: We took that PowerPoint down. Remember?
BRIN: Ohh yaah, … I mean, we really use OpenOffice here exclusively– McNealy probably transferred the format to PowerPoint. Eric says Scott is always doing that out of habit since it is standard practice at Sun. We had Scott create slides for us since he is so desperate to get that equipment order. We let him have the information since he is right that privacy is dead and people should get over it.
PAGE: It’s so great to have Scott making statements like that about privacy since it makes us look reasonable when we know more or less everything about our audience. I mean, McNealy is the Dr. Evil of privacy. As an aside, Sun’s whole grid thing is a hoot! The telephone companies just Made Scott man of the year hoping people buy all that connectivity.
BRIN: After he did that PowerPoint, I mean Open Office work, we took Scott on a snipe hunt. He may still be up in the hills holding the gunny sack waiting for snipe.
PLAYBOY: How will you avoid the mistakes of many other dot-coms? After their IPOs, employees became more focused on the stock price than on their jobs. Many of those companies are gone.
PAGE: Those companies are not good analogues for Google. People like the former Chef for the Grateful Dead are not leaving Google because they are rich.
BRIN: Errr, yes he did.
PAGE: No wonder the food has gone to heck in a hand basket. There are way less mushrooms in every dish..
PLAYBOY: But like you, these dot com failures were Internet-focused technology companies. What’s the difference?
PAGE: Those companies did not have the right ratio to math geniuses to PR geniuses. Look, we’ve done the math on this.
PLAYBOY: The math?
BRIN: Yah it’s a big formula with lots of Greek letters in it. You would not grok it.. I mean mathematics is made of 50 percent formulas, 50 percent proofs, and 50 percent imagination
PAGE: Math is like love; a simple idea, but it can get complicated.
PLAYBOY: Are you happy?
PAGE: Yes, finally. The dot-com period was difficult for us. We were dismayed in that climate.
PLAYBOY: What dismayed you?
PAGE: We had to pretend that Wired magazine was something we actually wanted to read.
PLAYBOY: Companies tried to buy you, too. Did you ever consider selling Google?
PAGE: Yes. All of us wanted to sell but Eric. He has this blood feud thing going with Redmond. In private, he literally foams at the mouth when you mention Microsoft.
BRIN: It’s is like episode #35 of The Simpsons."Blood Feud" I think they called it. Eric is always insulting Microsoft execs. In #35, Mr. Burns gets mad that Homer called him a "senile, bucktoothed, bony armed, liverspotted and chinless" but Homer never said anything about liverspots or Burns’s chin. Eric does the same thing.
PLAYBOY: Is your company motto really “Don’t be evil”?
BRIN: No. It is: "Better to look good and be lucky, than be good."
PLAYBOY: Is it a written code?
BRIN: Yes, we programmed it in COBOL 97. We have other rules, too.
PAGE: We allow people to spend 20% of their time staging PR stunts, for example.
BRIN: Speaking of PR, as for “Don’t be Evil,” we have tried to define precisely what it means to be a force for good, so our motto for PR purposes could be "do good"— but there is this guy Popper who says you can’t prove anything, only disprove things.
PAGE: So we reversed "do good" to say "don’t be evil" so we could comply with Popper’s rule and actually prove it! [rich white guys high five each other]
PLAYBOY: Er, you can’t prove that either — do good and don’t be evil are the same thing.
BRIN: Look, we did not take philosophy classes. Ok? We were in the lab programming.
PLAYBOY: Who ultimately decides what is "looking good and being lucky"? Eric Schmidt, your CEO, once said, “Looking good is whatever Sergey decides.”
PAGE: Eric has no fashion sense and I’m a dork on these issues. That that leaves Sergey. Its was a process of elimination.
PLAYBOY: How does the process work?
BRIN: We scan the fashion trends in geekdom using Google images. Somebody’s always upset no matter what we do. We have to make a decision; otherwise there’s a never-ending debate. Some issues are crystal clear. Let’s say we are choosing the music for the elevators. Echo and the Bunneymen and Devo, of course, rule. But then there is Elvis Costello– and all that politically incorrect stuff in his past. I mean Alison is a great song. but you need to draw the line…
PAGE: When the decisions are less clear and opinions differ, sometimes we have to break a tie. We throw a Google intern off of the Stanford clock tower and if he lands head first, the answer is yes. Tails, its no. If it is questionable how the intern landed, then we throw off another intern. The Mayans and the Incas did this and they we very good with math for their time.
PLAYBOY: Who decides when you run out of interns to throw?
BRIN: That’s not possible. OK? We have free Odwalla in the coolers.
PLAYBOY: I see. How are you "not evil"?
BRIN: In an Isaac Hayes sort of way, before he left the South Park cast due to Scientology concerns.
PAGE: I wonder if we can get Jerome "Chef” McElroy as the Google Chef now that he has left South Park Elementary school?
BRIN: I doubt he cooks vegan.
PLAYBOY: What about these rumors that Google will buy Sun? Daniel M Harrison has speculated: "The prospects that search engine giant Google is due to buy the U.S.’s most sophisticated hardware company (sic) have been swirling around trading floors and Silicon Valley… "Google is going into Financial Services and Healthcare!" …This is the last stage of the Java project!"
BRIN: This article originally appeared on Iowa Voice "the U.S.’s largest Republican blog." People are unclear whether the source is the most popular Republican blog, or a blog for large Republicans. Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, we do not favor any political party. We are just as likely to make a fool out of Al Gore and his Current TV mess. But when you combine Sun and overweight Republicans, well, the situation is target rich…
PAGE: There is a far greater chance of Scott McNealy catching a snipe with that burlap sack than Google buying Sun. [Rich white men high five and run off to the volleyball court ending the interview].